HomepageLibraryIt’s Banned Books Week!

It’s Banned Books Week!

The Banned Books Week Coalition’s theme this year – “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us” – emphasizes the ways in which books and information bring people together, help individuals see themselves in the stories of others, and aid the development of empathy and understanding for people from other backgrounds. The annual event takes place September 26 – October 2, 2021.

Think banning books is a thing of the past? Unfortunately, not so much. Just this month, CNN reported on a controversy in York, PA (just a couple of hours away from Ursinus) stemming from a decision in which “the all-White school board unanimously banned a list of educational resources that included a children’s book about Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography and CNN’s Sesame Street town hall on racism.” Censorship battles are fought on the local level all over the country, especially when it comes to what’s included in school curricula. Though the York school board recently reinstated access to the books after community backlash, this story highlights the reality that it takes vigilance, advocacy and action to combat censorship.

The Banned Books Week Coalition is an international alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read. This year’s Banned Books Week coincides with the release of the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books list. This year’s list includes titles that address racism and racial justice, as well as those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color. As with previous years, LGBTQ+ content also dominated the list:

  1. George by Alex Gino. Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism and because it was thought to promote antipolice views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and it included rape and profanity.
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the author.
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote antipolice views.
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes and their negative effect on students.
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Challenged for profanity, and because it was thought to promote an antipolice message.

Visit bannedbooksweek.org and follow their social media for updates on Coalition events and resources.

We in Myrin encourage you, as ever, to read widely and broadly, exploring with a curious spirit, an open mind and a critical sensibility. Let us know if there’s anything you want us to order for our collection!

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Diane Skorina
Director of Research, Teaching & Learning Services, LIT
dskorina@ursinus.edu
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